According to recent research, it has been found that resources and technology are available today to avert a disaster that is likely to be caused by a 10 km wide asteroid on a bee-line towards Earth with a catastrophic impact just six months away. This was the scenario in the recent Netflix film, “Don’t Look Up.”
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote in their paper posted recently on Arxiv, “We show that humanity has crossed a technological threshold to prevent us from ‘going the way of the dinosaurs’ ” They further wrote, “We show that mitigation is conceivable using existing technology, even with the short time scale of 6 months warning.”
It was mentioned in recent papers that the most effective method of pulverizing is using small nuclear explosive devices in the penetrators. This along with the soon-to-be-realized heavy-lift launch assets such as NASA’s Space Launch System is sufficient to lessen this threat.
This method would vaporize part of the asteroid’s surface, generating an explosive thrust and a variation in velocity in response. It would not eradicate an asteroid completely. It would just alter the path of the asteroid thus keeping it from hitting our planet.
Schweickart has mentioned that the technology required to achieve the target exists today. He said, “That is, we do not have to go into a big technology development program in order to deflect most asteroids that would pose a threat of impact.” But he has emphasized that technology has not been put together in a system design, or tested and showed that it could deflect an asteroid.
But NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), last year, the first-ever planetary defense test mission. It will show that a spacecraft can autonomously perform a kinetic impact on a relatively small asteroid.
It is mentioned by Lubin and Cohen in their paper that a threat of magnitude hitting the Earth at a closing speed of 40 km/s would have an impact energy of roughly 300 Teratons YNT, or about 40 thousand times larger than the current combined nuclear arsenal from the world. They said, “This is similar in energy to the KT extinction event that killed the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. Such an event, if not mitigated, would be an existential threat to humanity.”
They added, “We show that mitigation is conceivable using existing technology, even with the short time scale of 6 months warning, but that the efficient coupling of the NED energy is critical. They also focused on the requirements to divert an asteroid the size of Texas, about 830 km in diameter.
“What do you do now?” they asked. “You are going to need some die-hard to get you out of this one. A couple of options: a) party, b) move to Mars or the Moon to party, c) do what they did in Chicken Run during take-off.”